A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z #
Kalsoum, Oum
From her 1921 debut until death in 1975, Oum (Mother) Kalsoum's reputation spread throughout the Arabic-speaking world from her base in Cairo. Israeli radio still uses the beloved Oum Kalsoum to woo Palestinian listeners. Born the daughter of a village imam, Kalsoum learned to sing by eavesdropping on her father's singing lessons with her brother. When her father heard her powerful voice, he invited her to join in. Kalsoum used to dress as a boy to sing without harassment from authorities. She quickly achieved local fame, and moved to Cairo in 1923 to begin a career that would mark the entire Arab-speaking world. Kalsoum quickly adapted to the ways of the city's cultural and social elite, and her appeal was central to the rise of Egyptian radio, starting in 1934, and television, starting in 1960. Despite personal crises and chronic health problems, Kalsoum continued to expand her reputation for decades, interpreting works by great poets, starring in films, delivering masterful radio interviews, and creating immortal music year after year. She was hailed as "the voice and face of Egypt." At the height of her career, politicians took care not to compete with her weekly radio show in which she would unfold lyric poems, taking up to an hour to complete one piece. When Kalsoum died, millions flooded onto the Cairo streets to mourn her. She left no children, just 286 songs, 132 of them based on the poems of Ahmed Ramy.